This seems so wrong to me. I tried to look at it objectively. I know that not every family is going to be like mine.
I grew up in a family that was generous with verbal praise. We tell each other we love each other a lot. A LOT. Like pretty much every time we see each other or talk on the phone, to this day. And my husband and I have continued this pattern with each other, and our children.
I know that not every family is cut from the same cloth. Everyone has their own style. But I got to thinking, if we are going to pattern our families after anything, it needs to be God's family.
And you know what I find in the Bible? Lavish love. Undeserved lavish love. Told to us in a thousand different ways. God's love for us, despite our sin, and poured out for us in Jesus. Which is, of course, the most important part of love. Let us not love in word or tongue but with actions and in truth. I John 3:18 So showing love is obviously important. BUT God sure does a lot of telling about His love as well. He goes way, way out of His way to tell us how much He loves us. Just because He loves us.
The main text for our recent women's retreat was Ephesians 3:18-19, where Paul exhorts us to join other Christians in knowing "what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge."
Literally, that we can understand a love that cannot be known. It's an over-the-top kind of love, that can only be understood by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
Beth Moore used Psalm 103 to expand on the measurement terms.
How wide is His love? As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
How long is His love? From everlasting to everlasting.
How high is His love? As far as the heavens are high above the earth, how great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.
We left the retreat amazed at his lavishness.
I've loved Psalm 40:5. "And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."
His thoughts toward me are too high too count? That's A LOT of love.
I have games I play with my younger children. I heard this idea once, and it's a winner. You tell, for example, your 6-year old son: "You know, if they took all the six-year-old boys in the whole world, and fit them into a football stadium, and told me I could pick any of them I wanted for my six-year-old boy, I would walk around and meet them all. There would be boys with black hair and brown hair and red hair and blond hair, tall boys and short boys, silly boys and serious boys, boys who like baseball and boys who like football, but when I met you I would say, 'Here he is! This is the one I want. I don't need to look anymore. I've found him. I want to take this one home!" They. Love. It. It might seem a little silly, but trust me on this one.
Until our kids get older, the only way they are going to understand God's magnificent love for them, is through our love. Parents need to point the way to God for sure, but they are wired to trust us and need our love, and gradually they will, prayerfully, come to a close relationship with God. But we are their first picture of what love is supposed to be. And they need to know they are loved... not because of their performance, but just because they ARE.
As for the dad who's never said "I love you," to his kids, I don't even know him, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't lavished with love as a kid. But God is our Father, so let's be like Him.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called the children of God! For that is what we are!
I John 3:1 NIV